Finalist, National Book Awards 2022 for Poetry

book cover for Sharon Olds, Balladz
ISBN 9780525656951
Alfred A. Knopf / Penguin Random House
author photo of poet Sharon Olds. (Photo credit: Hillery Stone)
Sharon Olds

Sharon Olds was born in San Francisco and educated at Stanford University and Columbia University. The winner of the Frost Medal, as well as both the Pulitzer Prize and England’s T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry for her 2012 collection, Stag’s Leap. More about this author >

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From the publisher:

“At the time of have-not, I look at myself in this mirror,” writes Olds in this self-scouring, exhilarating volume, which opens with a section of quarantine poems, and at its center boasts what she calls Amherst Balladz (whose syntax honors Emily Dickinson: “she was our Girl – our Woman – / Man enough – for me”) and many more in her own contemporary, long-flowing-sentence rhythm. Olds sings of her childhood, young womanhood, and maturity all mixed up together, seeing an early lover in the one who is about to buried; seeing her white privilege without apology; seeing her mother (whom her readers will recognize) “flushed exalted at Punishment time”; seeing how we’ve spoiled the earth but carrying a stray indoor spider carefully back out to the garden.

It is Olds’s gift to us that in the richly detailed exposure of her sorrows she can still elegize songbirds, her true kin, and write that heaven comes here in life, not after it.

Judges Citation

Pulsing with buoyant language, Sharon Olds’s Balladz traverses vast emotional landscapes in poems that sing and revel, mourn and remember. From girlhood to adulthood, to confronting whiteness and privilege, to love found then lost, to grieving the earth while channeling her inner Emily Dickinson, Olds deftly asserts “I need to honor myself more, / so I can bless my mother.” Though wide in scope, these poems maintain a remarkable intimacy and wit not easily forgotten.


Sharon Olds at the 2022 National Book Awards Finalist Reading